How We Made Change a Reality
Updated: Jun 25, 2019
The summer is winding down and change is in the air. It's been a remarkable year for the evolution of Redefin'd, and we think it's worth sharing.
The New Year
Redefin'd started the year in consultation with the Youth Advisory Table. We held a series of round table discussions with Calgary's at-risk young people to talk about their challenges, the programs they've experienced and to collect their thoughts and ideas on what Redefin'd should be.
The young people overwhelmingly expressed a need for change.
We talked about housing which happens to be a significant challenge for most. They voiced many concerns: "I might not need a place to stay to have a job, but couch surfing makes employment hard and you can overstay your welcome.", or "Housing isn't affordable, it's 90% of my expenses". Through this we began to truly understand their reality.
Transitioning from young adult to adult in our province presents many challenges. The young people from the Youth Advisory Table expressed seeing a lot of relapse in their peer group. They cited that due to the significant gap in services for those between these two age groups, they feel there is little accountability. They see the impact this lack of follow up in services has provided, and define it as "more of a drop off than a transition period."
In our round tables, we invited the group to engage in our logo design process. The name chosen, Redefin'd, ended up reflecting the young people's desire for change. In early discussions, the group talked about redefinition being like a tree, "it's born a sapling but is redefined by experience", or "we see beauty in trees by how they have been shaped".
These conversations lead to the design of the Redefin'd logo. Miranda, the lead on the design team worked with graphic designers and described the logo as a reflection of the path taken by those in the program. The style of the logo reflects moving from a rougher life to one more polished; the differences in font are meant to illustrate this transition. In addition, the unique spelling of fin'd puts emphasis on younger focus of the program, as well as finding oneself through the process. In some versions, you'll see the apostrophe is red in colour; this is a reference to their history, a piece of which they carry with them regardless of where they are on this journey.
The Redefin'd logo made it to the big time on the ATB X Wall of Fame
Shortly after the youth consultations, Redefin'd was accepted into the ATBX entrepreneurial incubator, a boot camp business accelerator hosted by ATB Financial. Starting in late February of 2017, we moved into the Xer co-working space and found ourselves surrounded by a community of new start ups, coaches and mentors that helped us organize and structure our idea. You can read more about our experience here.
At ATB X, we were able to hone our idea and take it from the concept phase into full program design. We had the guidance to dig deep in order to explore and to better understand our project and its objectives. What are we? What do we do? Why?
We came to understand the marriage at Redefin'd between charity and social enterprise, a term we reluctantly refer to. Heck yeah, we want to operate super cool and successful businesses because we want to connect our young people to the purpose they need to redefine their lives. We also want to introduce Calgarians to inspiring stories of transformation and encourage people in our city to invest in social change. Lastly, we want to create new and exciting opportunities to diversify our funding streams so we can continue the work that we do with less strings attached.
But before any of that can happen, we need a program that puts people first. Our success depends on creating a space where people can recover. In order to do this, our work environment must be inclusive, flexible and compassionate. More than work experience, Redefin'd is the creation of a unique space of safety that is founded on these intentions and that provides a deeply therapeutic experience. Our challenge in all of this is to make sure we stay focused on work for its therapeutic impact, not its economic one.
Our Theory of Change was a product of our time at ATB X and Homeboy Industries
Homeboy defines this balance beautifully, "At Homeboy we bake bread to employ Homeboy's, we do not employ Homeboy's to bake bread". Homeboy is about rehabilitating Homeboy's.
Being part of the ATB X start up community helped us realize where we fit on the spectrum and understand how better to navigate it.
Homeboy Industries Mentorship
In August 2016, Redefin'd had the opportunity to attend the Homeboy Industries Global Homeboy Networking Conference in Los Angeles, California. Homeboy Industries is a global leader in rehabilitation, working with gang members and people struggling with past incarceration through a work based model.
Graffitti notes from the GHN Conference in Los Angeles, Ca.
Once a year, several hundred people from around the world meet at the Homeboy Industries HQ and share ideas on social innovation happening in the world of recovery and complex social issues. Presenters were a mix of Homeboy staff and former gang members, as well as a handful of start up organizations that Homeboy mentors. We heard stories that brought the audience to tears and participated in sessions on staying true to a projects mission. Since our time at the conference, we'd been itching to go for a longer trip in order to glean more knowledge and inspiration from their team.
A few months into our time at ATB X we got our chance. We'd hit a wall in our development and needed the inspiration and direction that we knew the Homeboy team could provide. In March of 2017, we approached Homeboy and worked out a schedule for our visit. A month later and we were in sunny Los Angeles, having coffee at Homegirl Cafe while looking over our two day slate of meetings and tours.
Our time at Homeboy was a whirlwind. We didn't think two days was going to be enough time but then we met back to back with numerous departments from youth engagement, to substance abuse and Information Technology. We discussed the nuts and bolts detail of their programs and approaches until our brains were full. It was an invaluable experience that gave us the knowledge we needed to flesh out what Redefin'd would offer and the methodology required to make it happen.
Homeboy has become a mentor to start ups like ours around the world. They take on a handful of mentee organizations each year and we at Redefin'd are honoured to be among them. You can read more about our experience at Homeboy here and here.
In early June of 2017, we moved out of ATB's space and stepped straight into launching our pilot program working with young people. We entered into a partnership with Pathways CSA in Bowness an Indigenous youth organization that was interesting in taking on a summer garden program of their own. With similar ideologies about youth empowerment we joined forces to offer the Redefin'd Pathways Summer Garden Program.
One of the most significant issues Redefin'd has faced in attracting funding to our program is the early start up nature of our journey. Quite simply, we hadn't run the program on our own two feet and we lacked any form of social proof of concept. It was a chicken and the egg dilemma. We are grateful to Ronni and her team at Pathways who saw the potential in Redefin'd and were willing to make an early investment in our idea. Their belief and in our approach and program truly brought the Summer Program to fruition.
We owe a debt of gratitude to the Pathways dream team that we've worked with all summer. They've grown along side us and our young Krew members as we worked to define the program. To Blair, our Indigenous Elder, who has been a blessing and has gifted us with insight, reflection and genuine compassion. To Madison who was our right hand woman throughout the summer and became an integral part of the team. To Pam for her belief in what we do and to David, Erin, Chris, Nicarla, Chantal, Jen and everyone else who has supported our work and brightened our doorstep. Thank you for your contribution and patience through our development.
At the time of this writing, the Summer Program has been in operation 13 weeks. We've employed 16 young people and generated over 600 hours of meaningful work. The young people have been busy building an outdoor pizza oven, exploring urban gardening and composting, taking on serious food preparation and preservation projects, hosting farmers markets and soon will be constructing a cob bench in the Calgary Community of Southwood as part of our intention to strengthen our connection to the community.
Our Krew has come along way. As a team they have gelled and you can sense an overwhelming sense of pride in what they have accomplished. As individuals they've grown more than we could have imagined in these few short weeks. They have more confidence and display greater resilience in their lives.
Now it's nearing the end of the summer and of our pilot project. We are moving into new and uncharted waters. It's a time of uncertainty but also of excitement. Above all this summer has given us the gift of sight. We know we this is an idea whose time has come.
Our Krew members redefining it at Rootstock 2017
"I've been a part of [Redefin'd] since the beginning. I've had a say in it. That's what I like about it, I've had a say. There's no other program like this. This is what we need." Redefin'd Krew Member
"You have no idea the safety you have created here. This is a really special place."
Pathways CSA Elder
"This program has changed my life. It gives me something to do. Before this people never really liked me. No, they liked me, but they never really cared."
Redefin'd Krew Member
"I've had an amazing time. I learned what it's like to be sober. I want this life." Redefin'd Krew Member
Redefin'd at Rootstock 2017
"This is my boss, but not really because at Redefin'd they're more like friends. They really care. I still wanna get paid though."
Redefin'd Krew Member
Pathways staff member: "Have you learned a lot from working in the kitchen here?"
Krew Member: "Yes, I've learned so much working here."
Pathways staff member: "That's cool. Do you use any of what you've learned at home"
Krew Member: "No, I don't really cook like this at home. I've only made jam. I made it from the raspberries in my yard."
Founder and Executive Director